Safety First: Meetings Groups Support Industry-Wide Security Initiative

While convention centers have always had their own safety and security measures in place, a new industry initiative will create national standards to make for safer events and more secure venues.

A few months ago, the Nuclear Security Summit took place here in Washington, DC—and within a few blocks of my apartment. With it came some larger-than-usual security nuisances: weeklong neighborhood road closures, random bag and ID checks on my walk to and from work, and the need to double the time it took to get anywhere.

While here in DC we may deal with security checks more often than other places thanks to the abundance of world leaders in the area, it’s pretty much a part of everyday life no matter where you are.

And meetings are no exception. Keeping attendees safe and secure has always been a top priority for meeting planners and venue staff.

But, in light of recent attacks at nightclubs in Orlando and airports across the world, the meetings and exhibit industry is turning an even closer eye toward strengthened security at venues.

To that end, last week the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) and the Exhibition Services and Contractors Association (ESCA) announced their collaboration with the Safety Act Office of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to develop guidelines and standards for event safety and security.

While convention centers have always had their own such measures in place, IAEE President and CEO David DuBois, FASAE, CAE, told Trade Show News Network that there is now a need for the industry to outline national standards for convention centers of all sizes.

“The reason we are coming together now is to enhance what is already in place and to be proactive, instead of reactive, in the new reality of the world we live in today,” DuBois said in a press release. “This initiative is unique, and we are fully supporting it because a strategic alignment of industry guidelines with the federal government, specifically the Safety Act Office within the Department of Homeland Security, is needed to protect the industry in the event of a terror act.”

This initiative will be facilitated by security consulting firm Keyway.

According to Trade Show Executive, after receiving input from IAEE and ESCA, the Safety Act Office will then develop a final set of security standards that comply with federal requirements.

Then, akin to the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program, convention centers will be able to apply through Keyway for varying levels of safety and security certification.

“We want to be proactive versus reactive,” DuBois said to Trade Show News Network. “We are pulling in all associations to assist on this.”

While this initiative focuses on convention centers, in recent years, association meeting planners have had to respond to a number of situations that were out of their control—whether caused by civil unrest or extreme weather.

For example, following the Paris and San Bernardino, California, terror attacks last year, the Consumer Technology Association tightened security at January’s CES. Among the safeguards: random searches, metal detectors, police officers, bomb-sniffing dogs, and bag restrictions.

But, no matter the situation, the goal is to keep attendees safe.

Have you changed your safety and security measures onsite at your meetings and conferences? Tell us how in the comments.


Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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